On a perfect winter’s day on Sunday 8th December, London Transport Museum held its final steam runs celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. It was a fitting finale to what has been an unprecedented year of heritage steam operations on the world’s oldest Underground railway.
The day was also special thanks to its unique route. It has been a number of years since steam has been seen on the Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan line and it is possible that it will never happen again. It was a thrill to witness L150 and a Class 20 diesel, with British Rail 4TCs and Jubilee carriage 353 in tow, steaming through the likes of Hillingdon and Ruislip Manor. Met Loco No.1 was sadly absent after a fault was discovered in its pre-run safety checks. Thankfully, L150 was a more than adequate back-up!
The first trip left at 10.50, with a real sense of excitement in the air. As I stood on the platform guiding people to their carriages, I fielded a number of questions from bewildered regular Underground travellers who, expecting their usual service to Uxbridge, must have felt they had travelled back in time.
As the first train steamed through West London, revellers waited at intermediary stations to catch a glimpse and a photo. The air was clear and crisp, making for some picturesque images of billowing steam. Enthusiasm certainly didn’t wane throughout the day, with each of the runs sold out.
There was particular interest in the Museum’s Victorian Jubilee carriage 353, recently restored and a regular fixture in this year’s Tube 150 celebrations. Every inch of the luxurious upholstery and smooth woodwork was examined by inquisitive passengers. Those lucky enough to ride in the carriage were treated to the unique experience of travelling 1890s style!
As the gloom began to gather and the last train departed Harrow-on-the-Hill, the day came to a close. It had been extremely enjoyable and an appropriate denouement to all the events and celebrations which have taken place this year, which began with the extraordinary Underground steam trips in central London this January.
Thank you to all who have bought tickets to the steam events, and rest assured the Museum is currently planning an exciting programme for our heritage vehicles in 2014.